Nasa shows first photo of distant world from New Horizons probe

Nasa shows first photo of distant world from New Horizons probe

Nasa shows first photo of distant world from New Horizons probe

The surface features of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) are coming into focus in these images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby on January 1, 2019.

There isn't a giant solar carrot nose or space coal buttons or anything like that, but it definitely looks a bit like a snowman.

NASA originally described Ultima Thule's shape as "similar to a bowling pin" that is "spinning like a propeller", but also said it could potentially be two objects in tight orbit with one another.

The returned New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first image of the ice world, Ultima Thule. The broken record was also previously set by the same probe, after it passed Pluto in 2015.

Now, New Horizons will beam the first information and images from this close flyby back to Earth.

Released by NASA, this is the first colour image of Ultima Thule, taken at a distance of 137,000 kilometres and highlighting its reddish surface.

Nasa launched the New Horizons probe in 2006; it's about the size of a baby grand piano.

One of the reasons the area is of such interest to scientists is because of its super low temperatures (it's actually way too cold for snowman building), which has resulted in a preservation that could answer questions about how things came to be. Despite its long journey, the spacecraft is still chugging along and could potentially break through the belt to join NASA's Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft outside our solar system-if the mission is renewed, Space reports. It is likely an icy fragment that coalesced more than 4.5 billion years ago and that has remained in a deep freeze of the solar system's Kuiper belt ever since, some 4 billion miles from the sun. To be fair though, that's not a bad ETA, considering it's 6.5 million kilometres away. So, prepared to be wowed by higher-resolution photos in the coming days and weeks.

Since there are two separate lobes to the object, the team felt they needed to come up with a name for each.

Carly Howett, New Horizons co-investigator, said: "We can definitively say that Ultima Thule is red". "We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time", he said.

Mr. Stern added that images acquired when New Horizons flew around the side of 2014 MU69 will create a better phase angle between the Surface and the sunlight and should allow the team to make a "definitive determination and ultimately will count the number of craters" on MU69.

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